Sunday, July 31, 2011

Review: Wonder Woman Pilot

Yay! I finally got to see the Wonder Woman pilot!

I'm actually going to be jumping all over in my review, so if you don't want to be spoiled, you should probably watch the video first (click on the link above). Don't lolly-gag, though, I don't imagine it's going to remain up for very long.

So let's start with the good. Adrianne Palicki does just fine in the role. I was unfamiliar with her acting prior to this, but I had two concerns with her appearance, that she looked too young and that she was reportedly very petite. She carries the role just fine and they did the typical trickery to make her appear taller than most of the male actors in the pilot. Her acting was just fine as was that of most of the principle cast. There are a few duds in there, but that was generally the incidental roles.

I, like most people, felt that giving her three identities would be convoluted. However, actually watching the show, she really doesn't have three identities. Diana Themyscira and Wonder Woman are one and the same. Her demeanor is the same whether in her super suit or in a business suit. Everyone knows her real name is Diana Themyscira. "Wonder Woman" is just an alias or a title. Diana Prince is the separate identity, so it's really no more convoluted than the average hero... in fact, it's pretty much exactly how she was depicted in the real comics, before J Michael Straczynski revamped it. She didn't use the surname "Themyscira" but everyone knew she was Princess Diana from Themyscira and used the code name Wonder Woman, but they were the same person. She adopted the Diana Prince identity in the comics to get closer to humanity, which is basically the same motivation as it is here, just gone about in a different way.





And as for that, I read an interview with David E. Kelley and that was the nugget of his take on this character, what made him want to do the project to begin with, to address the isolation and loneliness she must feel. I have to admit, it's not a bad idea. (Like I said, I'm gonna jump all over the place here.) The last scene shows Diana Prince in her apartment, attempting to start a Facebook page, but when she has to list her friends, the only name she can put down belongs to her cat, Sylvester. This cuts to her sitting on the couch watching two anchor people gush about how great Wonder Woman is, with the female anchor wishing she could spend one day as her. The scene is well-shot and captures what Kelley wanted to convey and would have been an interesting take on the character. She does NOT as everyone was fearing, come across as neurotic, like Kelley's other creation Allie McBeal. Also thankfully missing were the rom com moments from the script of her having a sleep over, where she and her gal pals dance to "Single Ladies," and a workout scene set to "Bad Romance."


The Steve Trevor subplot WAS soapy and felt tacked on and like a lot of other things, at once overly complicated and unnecessary. As Diana Prince, she flips on the TV and what's playing but The (Fucking) Notebook, which causes Diana to flash back to her breaking up with Steve in order to move to LA and launch her Wonder Woman career. There's another soapy Steve flashback later on and then he pops up at the end, except wah waaaaah, now he's married! He's also working for the State Department, investigating Wonder Woman and her methods and has been transferred to LA. All of this could have been left out. Or at least postponed to a later episode. I know folks like romance on their TV dramas, but this one was poorly executed and seemed to weaken the Diana character. It just wasn't very well-done!


Carey Elwes as Henry Johns and Tracie Thoms as Etta Candy are just fine. In the original pitch, Elwes' character was supposed to be hopelessly in love with Diana, but there's no evidence of that here. Thoms is actually really good and it's too bad she isn't given more to do.


Let's talk about that costume. It actually films better than it photographs. I was particularly impressed with the gold metallic parts which DO in fact look like metal onscreen, even in low-rez pirated definition, versus looking like cheap, dull plastic in pictures. The bodice is still too shiny and plastic looking, though, although maybe I'm just used to seeing it, because while I didn't LIKE it, it didn't distract me. I got over it, fairly quickly.


And the trunks she wears in the last part of the pilot are made out of the same shiny material as the first revealed long pants that were scrapped. The shiny plastic-y pants accidentally pop up, after the first scene, where she is wearing the darker fabric pants, when she returns to her base, she is briefly shown wearing the original, much-hated shiny pants. This was an oopsie, and I guess if they'd actually aired this, they'd have digitally corrected it.

And about that... in one scene Diana complains that Veronica Cale calls her an "action figure" on TV, to which Etta replies, "You are an action figure. You deigned your costume specifically to look like one." But then in a later scene Diana complains in a board meeting about her skimpy costume and how big her doll's breasts are. It's a DREADFUL scene. If Diana designed the costume, why is she bitching about it now? At one point, Henry points to an illustration that bears a strong resemblance to this HORRIBLE real Ame Comi statue DC Direct produced:

...and claims that Diana approved the prototype, to which she replies that she didn't and they never settle on the truth.

There's also an illustration that shows her wearing the silver DCnU choker so you know that ugly look has been in the works for a while now. In the meeting, there are a number of different Wonder Woman toys and illustrations shown, most of which are wearing unique costumes, leading me to think she would probably switched up her look often, had the show gotten picked up.


Anyway, moving on, Elizabeth Hurley is "soap opera bitch" campy as Veronica Cale, the pharmaceutical villain... which I was okay with. I can see where it might not appeal to everyone, but I was okay with it. Honestly, my biggest complaint about her is that she only wore one dress in the entire movie!

Every scene, she wore the same dress! No one thought that was strange? In a real head-scratcher of a scene, Wonder Woman calls a press conference and accuses Veronica Cale of selling illegal super steroids and flat out says "I have no proof." You can't do that! It's a stupid scene that makes no sense, but sadly, there are a few more of those to come.




After running down one of Cale's henchmen in the first action sequence, Wonder Woman remarks that he was "like a cheetah." Oh come on! That couldn't have just been a cheap throw away line! That was a direct reference to Wonder Woman's arch foe The Cheetah! WHY didn't they just USE The Cheetah! Too often on super hero shows and even some movies, you have these super powered beings duking it out with non-powered executives and so forth. It wouldn't even have to have been the Barbera Minerva were-cheetah version.

The Priscilla Rich or Deborah Domaine versions would have worked. Instead she faces off against a pack of generic, roided-up muscle men in off-the-rack Under Armor.

Speaking of, nearly every other review of this pilot points out two disturbing scenes. In one, Wonder Woman PLAINLY places her magic lasso on the chest of the bad guy she chased down in the first scene, but rather than USE IT to get info out of him, she apparently breaks his arm/tortures him to get it. In the big final battle, she flat out kills two of Cale's guards. This is in addition to the somewhat confusing fact that she is an actual vigilante, using illegal methods to capture her foes, which the other characters repeatedly point out, but apparently "illegal search and seizure" aside, if they find out that Wonder Woman was right, THAT holds up in a court of law?! Why even point out that her methods are illegal?! Why not just just do what they did with Batman in the 50s and make her an unofficial deputy. Give her carte blanche. Otherwise, that kinda just makes HER a criminal, which may work in reference to someone like Batman who lurks in the shadows and maintains a SECRET identity, but would NEVER work for a public figure with a big skyscraper base of operations, with a whole corporation in place producing licensed merchandise to fund her crime fighting endeavors! Once again, illogical and overly-complicated.




The action sequences were decent. In the first, she does a lot of leaping, calling to mind Lynda Carter's depiction, wherein Wonder Woman couldn't fly. Some have complained that she uses the Magic Lasso more as a bullwhip, rather than twirling it over her head like a traditional lasso. I didn't have a huge problem with that, though. The cut I saw was unfinished, so you could see a lot of the ropes and wires during the big fight scenes, but interestingly, the lasso effects were all complete. She also has one bullets & bracelets scene in the final conflict, which was nice.




Here's where the flaws really bog things down. In Captain America, there were some gaps in logic or things that didn't quite make sense, but overall, Captain America had heart and was an excellently put-together story, so you could overlook a few flaws. With Wonder Woman, it's the opposite. There are just TOO many things that don't make sense, and really nothing GREAT to counter that. The "positives" are just "acceptable" or "okay" or "better than I thought they would be."


However, I would have kept watching the show, had it been picked up. It had potential and I think that after hearing criticism, the producers, writers, etc. could have taken the show in a better direction. It wasn't un-salvageable. And I must say, it actually felt less cheesy than Smallville. At least her "world" looked real, not like fake-ass sound stages. Unfortunately, potential or not, the pilot was a 1.5 out of 5 at best.



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